The agricultural sector is the backbone of Kenya’s economy and a means of livelihood for most of the rural population. The sector contributes directly 26 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and another 25 per cent indirectly and accounts for 65 per cent of Kenya’s total exports, employs over 40 per cent of the total population, and over 70 per cent of the rural population depends on agriculture for their livelihood.
A photo of Mr Namanja from Igigo village during an interview
Although Kenya has a well developed agricultural research system, dissemination of research findings to the smallholder farmers, who are the majority of farmers in Kenya has remained a bigger challenge. Climate Change has been a big threat in food production systems and has hit majority of farmers as is the case in Igigo community in Budalangi.
Currently, over 100 thousand people in Igigo Community suffer from chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition due to the effects of Climate Change as well as degradation of natural resources such as soil and water, loss of biological biodiversity, diminishing arable land and extreme weather events including intensive floods. Nearly half of those affected require emergency food assistance at any given time. At the same time, about 40% of those affected are children and are characterized as malnourished.
Food insecurity has a high cost to individuals, school learners, teachers and to society as a whole and has been a consistent pattern in all groups of people regardless of the income level, gender, age, marital status, race/ethnicity, or religion.
The effects of climate change being experienced by the Igigo residents have hindered the ability of smallholder farmers within this community to effectively participate in crop production and market systems.
In addition, food production in this community has also been characterized by low yields per land unit, minimal use of inputs, high costs per unit production resulting in low farmer revenues, which can also be attributed to weak integration into input and output markets
“This year alone, over 90% of crops planted in this community were destroyed by floods which are normally experienced in the 3 consecutive seasons. When floods came early this year, all crops that had been planted were swept away, livestock too were swept while other lost their lives and we were all forced to seek refuge to higher places.” He continues by saying that “food became a problem and communities were forced to eat poor quality diets as a result of limited food options.”
“The Government also came in to our rescue by offering relief foods but still that wasn’t enough.”Says Mr. Namanja Igigo community member
Nearly Three quarters of class 4 pupils at Igigo primary school interviewed reported not always having breakfast, but also not going home during lunch breaks. Pupils reported coping to the situation by depending on wild fruits or even stealing food from the young learners.
Due to the inadequate supply of quality diet, physical, mental, spiritual and social health, and wellbeing of these learners and their teachers has also been reduced resulting to fatigue and illness.
Generally the entire community also suffers higher rates of diet related diseases throughout the life cycle including low birth weight babies, childhood and infant anemia, lowered immunity from infectious diseases and dental caries. Climate change poses complex environmental and socioeconomic challenges that cuts across multiple and highly interdependent domains and areas of jurisdiction.
There is need for the Government to act on the Climate Change Adaptation strategies focusing on concrete and realistic intervention priorities that emphasize a comprehensive, collaborative approach, working closely with all partners and always seeking sustainable development. The climate change adaptation strategic directions must therefore take into account the very close links between human, ecological and socioeconomic systems.
It’s only by adapting preventive adaptation solutions that will facilitate the reduction climate change costs and may even, in some cases, profit by turning the effects of climate change into new opportunities.